In a manner reminiscent of war front, some Essien Udim communities in Akwa Ibom State have become desolate as the military pounded the serene villages to comb out suspected criminal elements responsible for spate of attacks on security operatives in the local government area.
Though the actual casualties could not be ascertained in the affected communities, the military operation was led by Nigeria Air Force using three jet fighter planes in bombarding the suspected hoodlums’ hideouts in the area on Tuesday, April 6.
Eye witness account said the military operation was severe as sounds of gunshots and heavy artillery were heard in the neighbouring villages.
An eye witness told Straightnews that Ikot Afanga and Ntak Ikot Akpan in Essien Udim were the theatres of war and would live with debilitating effects and horrific experiences in years to come.
The eye witness who did not want his name in print said ”the affected villages and their neighbours have been deserted owing to the severity of the aerial bombardment.’’
Asked if the suspected criminal elements have been affected, he said the suspects had bolted away remaining innocent persons in the communities to bear the brunt of the ‘war.’
This is as another source told Straightnews that the military using three trucks went to the Essien Udim on Monday, April 5 to carry the corpse of a slain soldier, but they were repelled by the gunmen who stood close to the decomposing corpse.
”Realising the casualty that would have ensued, the soldiers retreated and returned to Uyo to fortify their plan to disarm the hoodlums,’’ another witness told our reporter in the area.
It was gathered from other sources that drones and helicopters were also deployed on Monday to the area as they flew at low levels to ensure proper surveillance of the area.
The military had on Monday asked residents to vacate areas suspected to be used by as camps by the criminals.
Staffers and students of the Federal Polytechnic, Ukana in Essien Udim located few metres from Senator Godswill Akpabio’s residence were forced out of the school campus.
The Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area was also closed.
Essien Udim has been under siege for sometimes now by criminal elements suspected to be members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Last week, three police officers including a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), were killed in a reprisal attack by gunmen while four policemen were declared missing.
Military vehicles were also set ablaze by the hoodlums.
The Army Public Relations Officer, 2 Brigade Nigerian Army, Akwa Ibom state, Captain Godfrey Abakpa confirmed the military operation to The Nation correspondent in Uyo.
At the time of filing this report, the Army Spokesperson said no arrest had been made yet.
Asked if the criminals were members of IPOB, he said: ”They are miscreants for now. We can’t categorise them until they are apprehended and questioned to know their intention and who sent them.”
When Straightnews called on telephone the Essien Udim Local Government Chairman, Mr. Anthony Luke, he did not pick his calls for further confirmation of the story.